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Shanahan Searches for Answers in Redskins' Quarterback Battle

Coach playing close to vest when it comes to choosing a quarterback

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    Shanahan Searches for Answers in Redskins' Quarterback Battle
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    BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 25: Quarterback Rex Grossman #8 of the Washington Redskins warms up prior to the start of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    The guy he wants to start at quarterback hasn’t done enough to earn the job. The other guy hasn’t been good enough to run away with it. And with Sept. 11 fast approaching, all eyes are on Mike Shanahan as the time to make his decision between Rex Grossman and John Beck draws ever closer.

    For now though, we’re still in the dark.

    “I’ve been telling you guys this from day one and I’ll keep on saying the same thing,” the coach said after Thursday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. “I’m going to evaluate them all the way through camp, all the way through the last preseason game and possibly all the way up to the day before we play the Giants.”

    It’s certainly refreshing to know the biggest news coming out of Redskins Park revolves around a personnel decision rather than an egotistical meltdown, but after a month of evaluation, it’s maddening to hear the head coach could be as uncertain as the rest of us are.

    Yet with the preseason three weeks old, it really is that tough to pick a winner in this race.

    “As I’ve said before I feel very good about both quarterbacks,” Shanahan said. “We can win with [both] and they played well enough [Thursday] for people to see that.”

    It’s an unlikely duo to put so much confidence in, but Shanahan hasn’t changed his tune since the lockout has ended. He didn’t draft a quarterback and didn’t add anyone relevant to the mix, preferring to roll with two cast-offs who failed to stick with a handful of other teams.

    And so far it’s a move that hasn’t blown up in his face. Neither quarterback has been the second coming of John Elway, but both have shown they can be competent under center.

    In three games, Grossman has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 407 yards and 7.7 yards per completion. Beck has played two games and completed 74.1 percent of his passes for 248 yards and a staggering 9.2 yards per completion.

    Grossman doesn’t possess Beck’s mobility, but he did outshine him against the Ravens first-team pass rush, shrugging off a slow start to go 8 of 15 for 112 yards and touchdown. Beck completed his first pass against Baltimore’s first-teamers, a 33-yard bomb down the left sideline to Anthony Armstrong, but didn’t complete another until Jim Harbaugh had subbed out his starting defense.

    Beck threw an interception on his first drive in the second half, but managed to salvage his outing in the third quarter with a beautiful 12-play, 97-yard drive. By that time Grossman was done for the night after he finished the first half with an eight-play, 80-yard drive.

    Grossman appears to have an edge thus far, but Shanahan doesn’t seem to be evaluating this competition based on what the ex-Gator does this preseason.

    The deciding factor is more about what Beck does or doesn’t do.

    As unfair as that sounds, it makes sense. Shanahan knows despite his limitations, Grossman is comfortable in the system. However, he also knows Beck is a better fit in the system.

    Shanahan entered the preseason needing to know whether Beck could be capable enough to survive at the professional level. The simple fact that Beck hasn’t laid an egg in either preseason appearance is enough to keep him afloat in this competition. He never had to light it up -- all he needed to do was show he could move the pocket, manage the game and do the little things Shanahan knew Grossman couldn’t.

    Beck’s done that and it’s been enough to drag the decision-making process into late August and beyond.

    “Obviously at the end of the day you want to make the right decision,” said Shanahan. “And that’s why you don’t just make a quick decision, especially when you’ve got two guys that you believe in and you’re not really sure what direction to go [in] at the time.”

    Whatever choice he makes, it might not even be final. Would anyone be surprised if both quarterbacks started games this season? Shanahan likes both and should one not live up to his expectations, it’s apparent he’d have zero issue going to his bench.

    But no matter the result the Redskins coach wasn’t too far off when he told reporters that “there’s always going to be controversy when you’re talking about the quarterbacks.”

    Whether you like Rex or Beck, that’s something we can all agree on.